Karlsruhe-based Daedalus has raised $21m in Sequence A funding to construct autonomous factories that manufacture precision components, for something from medical gadgets and rollercoaster wheels to rocket engines.
The startup — that takes its identify from a talented architect and craftsman in Greek mythology — was based by former tech lead and one of many first engineers at OpenAI, Jonas Schneider, who labored on the firm between 2016 and 2019 and based Daedalus a number of months after he left.
His startup is at the moment ramping up manufacturing at its first 50k sq. foot manufacturing unit in Karlsruhe, a metropolis within the industrial area of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It’s already producing elements for firms within the semiconductor, defence, vitality, emobility and medical sectors.
The concept is for the corporate to automate the manufacturing course of from quoting (which assesses the uncooked supplies, labour and margins wanted to provide a particular merchandise) to supply and smoothing out provide chain bottlenecks that producers usually face.
The Sequence A spherical was led by US agency NGP Capital, with additional participation from its present buyers, together with Addition and Khosla Ventures.
The manufacturing ‘bottleneck‘
Excessive-end manufacturing firms like Siemens, which produces electronics, or ASML, which produces semiconductors, usually run into issues when making an attempt to provide bespoke components.
“They’re very a lot targeted on design and utility engineering, determining ‘how can we design a pump in a manner that’s hyper-efficient’, however they get caught on the level of the place to truly get these components produced,” explains Schneider, who cofounded and led software program engineering for OpenAI’s Robotics workforce.
Usually, firms outsource the manufacture of precision components to small factories — a lot of which function with fewer than 10 staff and aren’t but on-line — that wrestle to maintain up with demand, thus stalling the general manufacturing course of.
To ramp up capability, these small producers would want to purchase extra machines and rent extra machinists (of which there’s a scarcity), however they typically lack the cash and know-how to take action, says Schneider.
This provide chain “bottleneck” is what Daedalus is making an attempt to unravel.
The corporate takes an outline from its clients of how the half they require ought to look and makes use of AI to show it right into a “set of directions” for the machines, which then produce the components routinely, says Schneider.
Daedalus can also be utilizing LLMs to create and retailer summaries of how every half is made — together with what instruments, supplies and methods have been used — with the intention to replicate that when making an identical half sooner or later.
The corporate has over 100 clients throughout the DACH area that come from quite a lot of sectors and are quite a lot of sizes: “from the vary of a pair dozen million income to a number of billions in income,” says Schneider.
Constructing autonomous factories
Daedalus is aiming to have its first autonomous manufacturing unit in Karlsruhe constructed by mid-2025, and can finally construct others: first in Germany after which in wider Europe.
These factories can be constructed near industrial areas the place a variety of manufacturing firms are primarily based with the intention to be as shut as doable to the shopper.
“We need to get to the purpose the place constructing out factories is fairly boring for us and simply the common day-to-day,” says Schneider.
Different firms constructing automation expertise embody Romanian UiPath, which IPO’d at a $36bn valuation in 2021, and the UK’s CloudNC, which has raised greater than $60m from buyers together with Lockheed Martin and Atomico.
Whereas Schneider nonetheless splits his time between San Francisco and Karlsruhe, his firm of 60 staff is totally primarily based within the latter, and fairly intentionally.
Karlsruhe is located within the Baden-Württemberg area, famed for being the seat of German manufacturing and the nation’s so-called “hidden champions”, the place automakers like Daimler and Porsche are primarily based. Town is roughly one hour away from Stuttgart and Heidelberg which have high technical universities, in addition to Heilbronn, the place an AI campus is being constructed.
With its historical past of world-renowned manufacturing, Germany is probably the most attention-grabbing marketplace for Daedalus: $100bn value of precision components are bought yearly within the nation, says Schneider, making the market as large because the US.
“You couldn’t construct this type of firm in Silicon Valley,” says Schneider, explaining that the Valley is extra of a software program hub.
He provides that his purpose for the corporate is to “take the very best of the Silicon Valley mindset” — identified for its spirit of risk-taking and openness to innovation — and mix it with “the German manufacturing ingenuity”.